Do Women have to Work Harder to Get Ahead?
One of the reasons women gave for our failure to shatter the “glass ceiling” in the 1980′s is that women have to work harder than the men to get ahead. As the daughters of the women of my generation begin to enter the workforce, the same tired song is making a comeback. Do we really have to work harder?
So I looked at my own career. I began in 1985 as a systems programmer in the Information Technology department of a large oil company (two male dominated industries). Darryl started about the same time as I did in the same group.
We both worked hard to master the learning curve, demonstrate our competence and earn the trust of the older men in our group. After all, we wanted them to entrust to us decisions concerning the computing infrastructure and operations of a large Fortune 50 company. So, yes, we worked hard, but one did not necessarily work harder than the other.
Our careers advanced at about the same pace until I made a costly immature decision. Oh well, lesson learned. When I shifted, I advanced.
The demands on our personal time were high due to the nature of the work: 24×7 availability, on-call rotations, weekend only downtime. No one person worked more than the others in the group.
When Darryl married and later had children he struggled as all people do, “How do I balance the demands of work and family?” Having a family is not a woman’s issue. He had to work harder, in the sense that he had to divide his time between work and his additional responsibilities at home.
Later, one of my really great supervisors (a man), pointed out to me that I had reached a point where technical expertise was not going to help me advance. The next promotions required that I seek opportunities to develop leadership skills and expose myself to other parts of the business.
Great advice! My career took off, more than making up for the earlier penalties I incurred.
The lessons from my career suggest that advancement and compensation are less and less gender specific issues.
- You will work hard to advance regardless of your gender. Success isn’t going to be handed to you.
- How hard you work is a function of your choices. Be clear about the life and career you want to have and make conscious choices to bring it to fruition.
- As you climb the ladder, leadership and interpersonal skills become increasingly important. Develop them!
- Choose assignments and positions that will expose you to operational aspects of the business. You are in control of your career!
So, did I work harder than the men to advance? Not from my perspective. Do women today? Not that I can tell. It is more about the choices you make than your gender.
What do you think? Do women have to work harder? Or just hard?